Human Rights: Burma

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:44 pm on 18th January 2017.

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Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 12:44 pm, 18th January 2017

Thank you for granting this urgent question, Mr Speaker. I congratulate Paul Scully on securing it.

For all of us who have campaigned for years for democracy and an end to repression in Myanmar, including many in this House, it is all the more troubling to see evidence that, for all the progress that has been made, the suppression of the majority in Myanmar has been replaced, in far too many cases, with the persecution of minorities. In particular, as the hon. Gentleman said, it was shocking to hear of the recent disappearance of two Kachin Christian leaders, who have apparently been kidnapped in northern Shan state. It is incumbent on the Government, and indeed on the international community as a whole, to press the Myanmar authorities urgently to provide information on their whereabouts and to secure their immediate freedom.

We are also deeply concerned about the continuing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state, and particularly about the recent reports from the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that a raft of human rights violations have taken place in recent months, including cases of torture, rape and sexual assault, summary executions and the destruction of mosques and homes.

Upholding human rights should be the driving force of our foreign policy, and we therefore call on the Government to use Britain’s influence to stand up for the rights and freedoms to which all human beings are entitled and to raise concerns with the authorities in Myanmar as a matter of urgency, including on the persecution and poverty that many people are suffering and on the need for full humanitarian access to all affected areas.

I hope the Minister can tell us today about the representations he has made to his counterparts in Myanmar, particularly on access for the UN-appointed rapporteur, Yanghee Lee, and on how he is planning to ensure that the rights of Myanmar’s people are protected.